The Trail Companion
Late Winter 1999
A Hike to Lookout Point at Villa Montalvo
by Bob Kelly
One of the closest hikes into the hills west of Santa
Clara Valley is Villa Montalvo Arboretum and County Park.
The Park is outside Saratoga off highway 9 on Montalvo Rd.
The entrance is easily recognized by the flanking stone
pillars and sign for Montalvo Performing Arts Center. Take
Montalvo Rd. 7/10 of a mile up to the one way entrance
road, posted Villa Montalvo Arboretum. Another 1/10 of a
mile is Parking lot 1 and the trailhead for the Lookout
Point loop hike.
The loop is a total of
about 1 1/2 miles. Just above the lot is a park information
board with a trail map and the trailhead for the Creek and
North Orchard trails. Take the Creek trail up along Wildcat
Creek. The trail follows Wildcat creek a short distance, to
a bridge across the creek. Continue several hundred feet
past the next bridge and on the hill to the left is the
back of the artists' residence for the Montalvo visiting
Shortly, we pass another
bridge and link to the Orchard Trail, with the trail
visible on the other side of the creek. At the next
junction, our trail turns left with the creek trail
continuing upstream to still another Orchard trail link.
Now we are on the Redwood trail as it switchbacks steeply
up to a level area next to a water tank and the junction of
the Nature and Wildcat trails. The distance traveled is
under 1/10 of a mile at this point. The Nature trail is an
old service road, one direction is next to the water tank
and goes directly down to the Villa. A section of the
Wildcat trail also goes left here, following the Nature
Trail to the right and up.
The Nature trail switches
back over a bridge up a tributary to Wildcat Creek. Before
the second bridge, bear left as the trail splits for
another link to the Orchard trail. While climbing the
Nature trail, you enjoy some good views of Santa Clara
It's only a 1/2 mile to the
junction of the Lookout trail. The forest here is a nice
mix of trees native to the Santa Cruz mountains, such as
Tan Oak (not actually an oak), Douglas Fir, Bay and Coast
Live Oak. There are also some examples of California
Nutmeg, I noticed one large individual down the hill
growing next to and through an Oak. The Nutmeg resembles
the Redwood but it's needles are stiffer and more prickly
than those of the Redwood. Continue climbing through a nice
grove of second growth Redwood with more views of the
valley and Mount Hamilton beyond.
The trail splits again with
the Lookout trail to the right, this last piece climbs
steeply for a short distance, emerging suddenly into the
open at the end of the trail, marked with a bench. The
exposed hillside gives a sense of the temperature change
between the area under the trees and open terrain. A great
view of the Valley spreads below; north, from San Francisco
Bay, south to Almaden Valley and east to Mt Hamilton and
the Diablo Range. This is a good spot for a break or
On returning, there are a
number of points that drop down to the Villa. As previously
mentioned, there are a several links over to the Orchard
Trail which returns to parking lot 1. I took the Nature
trail at the first junction down from the top. In 1/2 mile
it drops down behind the Villa, emerging at the
amphitheater. I walked down through the Arboretum along the
right side of the lawn. The Arboretum has many fine
examples of mature non-native plants well suited to our
The trail to parking lot 1
can be picked up on the left of the entrance road about 1/3
of the way down the lawn area. A couple of hundred feet
down is Wildcat Creek, bear right and come down to Montalvo
Rd. to cross the bridge to parking lot 1.
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